In 1876, as the story allegedly goes, Western Union sent out an internal memo that declared, “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.’”
Now, whether this story is true or not almost doesn’t matter. As short-sighted as the sentiment may have ended up being, and as much as we can laugh at these famous-last-words as they appear on our smartphone browsers 150 years later — we can all recognize that its core is a human reaction as-the same one that also dismissed the importance of the personal computer, email and the Internet.
Investment in social media marketing is still a tough sell to many. But it’s time to get over it: The time for waiting-and-seeing is past. Depending upon whom you’re listening to, we’ve either hit the social media tipping point or will very shortly. If your customers, prospects and competitors are active on social media, not being active yourself is like choosing to not have a telephone or email account.
Being social is now about simple survival. How’s that for business justification?
“The ROI of social media is that your business will still exist in 5 years.” — Erik Qualman
Just as important as determining potential social media-driven returns is determining the cost of opportunity lost. If your business hasn’t wholeheartedly adopted social marketing, or hasn’t invested the time and resources needed to make it an effective sales and marketing tool, what will it cost you?
- Customer service? Are you “listening” online when people voice their opinions publicly? Are you responding correctly and transparently, or damaging yourself by not responding? In other words: Are you keeping them happy and retaining their repeat business, or losing them to other businesses that appear to value them more?
- Company reputation and perception? Word of mouth is now a public conversation, with news traveling farther and faster than ever before. Great customer service, online and offline, is part of preserving your reputation, but so is building customer relationships and trust online and offline.
- Competitiveness? What are your competitors doing online? How are they interacting with their (your?) prospects? What kind of valuable information are they giving potential customers to help them make decisions? How large is their social reach? Are your own online efforts as good as they should be, or are you losing business to competitors who appear to offer better ideas, interactions and service online?
- Finding you? Social media makes it easier for potential customers to find you. “But I have a website,” you say. That’s no longer enough! A robust social marketing presence will drive more traffic to your site and boost your site in the search engines so that you can be found.
- Branding? If the number of people (consumers) on social media can be counted in the billions, aren’t you losing out on a BIG opportunity to let the world know about what you can do?
- Customer data? Are you taking advantage of social media user data that can be harvested and turned into predictive analytics that help your business more efficiently sell your product or service?
- Sales? This is what it all comes down to: Are you using social marketing for soft lead generation? How about for repeat business and customer retention? If you’re not, why have you decided these potential revenues aren’t important?
The cost of doing nothing, or not enough, should scare businesses more than the commonly referenced downsides to social media.
But is jumping into the social marketing pool for fear of not being competitive the same as jumping in with the intent and strategy to be successful? We’ll explore that question later this week!